The European Union (EU) strongly supports Vietnam’s development strategy to build itself into an industrialized country by 2020, European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday.
The EC leader made the statement when he met with representatives from European businesses, the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, and a number of consulates general in the city during his one-day visit there, Radio the Voice of Vietnam reported.
At the meeting, Barroso highly appreciated the EU’s comprehensive cooperation with Vietnam, which he described as a promising market and reliable partner in the region and the world.
The EU can back Vietnam to move forward, helping the country step up growth and modernization, the EC leader said.
The European bloc is now the Southeast Asian country’s second largest trade partner and top export market, with their two-way trade increasing by 20 percent per year on average, said the EC president.
In the first six months of 2014, bilateral trade between Vietnam and the EU topped US$13 billion, up nearly 13 percent from a year earlier, he said.
Key items included garments and textiles, footwear, coffee, seafood, timber products, electronics, and consumer goods, he added.
The EC president noted that 23 out of 28 EU member countries are investing about $18.4 billion in 1,471 projects in Vietnam.
Barroso also had talks with Le Hoang Quan, Chairman of the People’s Committee, who expressed his hope that the EC president’s call will help further strengthen friendships and cooperation between Vietnam and the EU.
Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s largest economic hub, has received much attention from EU investors in such fields as economy, trade, science, education, health, and tourism, Chairman Quan said.
Two-way trade between the city and the EU has expanded rapidly, the city leader said, adding that it exported products worth over $2.1 billion to the bloc while spending more than $1.2 billion on importing goods from the union in the first half of 2014.
The city now has 233 representative offices of European groups and companies. EU investors are running 833 projects in the locality with a combined capital of over $8.9 billion, Quan said.
EC President Barroso expressed his pleasure at witnessing the city’s strong development and briefed the host on the outcomes of his talks with Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi on Monday.
The conclusion of a Vietnam-EU free trade pact in the coming time will underlie the promotion of trade between the two sides, benefiting the business community and ordinary people, the EC leader said.
While in the city, the guest visited local historic and cultural sites including the War Remnants Museum, the Municipal Theater, the Municipal Post Office, and the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica.
Barroso started his two-day visit to Vietnam on Monday at the invitation of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to boost the Vietnam-EU cooperation.